Sean Casten: 2022 candidate for U.S. House 6th District
Office sought: U.S. House 6th District
City: Downers Grove
Occupation: US Representative for the 6th District of Illinois
Previous offices held: US Representative for the 6th District of Illinois (2019-Present)
What needs to be done to get Congress to work constructively, whether that be senators and representatives of both parties working with each other or Congress itself working with the president?
I'm consistently struck by the contrast between the public narrative around partisanship and the shared set of values held by the majority of people. In our schools, churches and businesses, we don't ask people to divide up into two teams. We talk about the issues that matter, and there's a lot of common ground. Most Americans want to pay less for prescription medication and pass a livable planet on to our kids. Most Americans want women to be able to make their own health care decisions.
If you frame those questions as partisan questions tied to a specific political figure rather than the issues that matter to folks, you see more polarized results. That reflects on the way we talk about government and politics much more than it reflects on the character and concerns of the American people.
We must find a way to come together around our shared values and do what is right, even when it is difficult politically. We need more Members of Congress willing to put the "we" above the "me."
What is your position on changing voter access?
I believe the right to vote is the most fundamental aspect of our democracy. In 2021, we saw over 400 laws proposed in 49 different states all aimed at restricting the right to vote for generations. These laws were specifically designed to limit the rights of people of color from the voting box, designed by a minority party out of fear that our country will one day be governed by the will of the majority.
In Congress, I'm proud to have led the fight to pass bills to expand voter access, like the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. I believe we need to pass legislation to:
-- Permit federal courts to halt questionable voting practice while they are reviewed. We must recognize that prohibiting a discriminatory practice only after an election takes place is undemocratic. -- Provide the Attorney General the authority to request federal observers be present anywhere in the country where discriminatory voting practices pose a serious threat.
-- Requiring reasonable public notice for voting changes.
Do you recognize that the election of Joe Biden as president in 2020 was legitimate and fair? If not, why?
Yes, without any reservation.
What, if anything, should Congress do to prevent another violent attack such as the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol?
Over one year after the attack on our Capitol, I am still shocked and horrified that the former president incited a deadly insurrection in an effort to overturn the results of a fair and democratic election. I am equally horrified that 139 of my own colleagues attempted to finish the job by voting to decertify the election results.
We must, and will pass laws to protect against a future January 6, from reforms to the electoral count act to enforcement of 14th Amendment prohibitions against those who have committed acts of insurrection against the United States. Our challenge in this moment is that it has become partisan to defend democracy. When the majority of my Republican colleagues voted to overturn the will of the majority, we must acknowledge that defending democracy is a partisan exercise. That demands that we all redouble our efforts to stand up in this moment. Even when it is partisan. Even when it is uncomfortable. Our country is too valuable to let it perish.
What do you consider America's role in world affairs? In particular, what should our role be regarding current points of tension involving Russia/Ukraine, the future of Taiwan or other threats of Chinese expansionism and the Middle East?
When I was in Madrid at the COP-25 climate meetings a European parliamentarian, saddened by our withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord said "bad things happen when the United States doesn't lead."
Putin's actions in Ukraine were made possible by the former President's efforts to break the post-WWII order, from weakening NATO to trying to bribe President Zelenskyy. Putin would like a world where their autocratic self-interests are not checked by the greater global good. It is our responsibility to make sure that doesn't happen.
I believe President Biden has done an exceptional job responding to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He has reminded the rest of the world that the US is the indispensable power, he has rekindled the sense of mission in NATO and reminded the world of the importance of the rule of law. Our work is not done, and never will be so long as evil remains in this world. But the world is a vastly better place when we are the leading advocate for multilateralism.
Do you acknowledge humans' role in causing climate change? What steps should government be taking to address the issue?
Yes. We need to do three things: (a) Cut US primary energy use per dollar of GDP by a factor of at least 2, (b) Invest in a massive R&D effort to develop technologies to make materials that currently depend on fossil fuels as a chemical input and (c) remove sufficient CO2 from the atmosphere to return to 350 ppm CO2.
The first of these will generate tremendous wealth. Anything we do to reduce energy use per dollar of economic activity gives us more economic value with less expense. We would also be wise to eliminate all of the $650B/year worth of fossil fuel subsidies that currently discourage the private sector from making the investments necessary to create this wealth.
The second of these is also an opportunity. I introduced and passed the Clean Industrial Technology Act to conduct this research.
The third requires a mix of major agricultural changes. These changes will be expensive. But if we move quickly on the first two areas we will create sufficient wealth to do the third.
Please define your position on health care reform, especially as it relates to the Affordable Care Act.
We must build and expand the ACA in two ways:
Ensure all Americans have access to quality health care, regardless of their age, employment or ability to pay by expanding ACA access and subsidies.
Fix the misalignments in our healthcare system that too often create profit incentives for behaviors that are directly contrary to the prior goal.
We took an important first step towards fixing this latter problem when we passed the Affordable Insulin Now Act to cap the cost of insulin at $35/month.
Finally, we need to fix our Medicare system. Medicare is unique among healthcare providers in being legally prohibited from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies to lower drug costs, and seniors who rely on Medicare are not able to use it to pay for vision, dental or hearing aids. I was proud to lead a letter to advocate for Medicare expansion and the inclusion of these benefits, but we have not yet been able to sign into laws.
What immigration policies do you support? Where, if at all, do you see room for compromise to produce an effective policy on immigration? Does the government have any responsibility toward Dreamers who were brought to the United States illegally as children and are now adults? How will these policies affect your district?
We have to create a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants already in this country who have lived law-abiding lives. The US has a responsibility to Dreamers who were brought here as children, and have grown up and built their lives in America.
We should increase our capacity to screen and process asylum seekers so as not to turn away people who are fleeing human rights atrocities and ready to contribute and present no risk to public safety.
We should eliminate the country-specific quota system and replace it with one that allocates quotas based on skills gaps in the US economy.
For students who come to US universities to study and earn advanced degrees, we should offer them a green card with their diploma.
Since President Biden has come into office, the United States has been creating jobs faster than we are creating workers. We can expect significant labor shortages unless and until we address the failures in our immigration system.